Regional development

SON 2017: Decentralise to keep more bright brains in the bush

Decentralisation creates more career opportunities for children and helps keep bright young brains in the bush, Federal Minister for Regional Development, Senator the Hon. Fiona Nash has told a CEDA State of the Nation audience in Canberra.

“Moving government entities to the regions puts more money in our towns, more customers in our shops, more students in our schools and more volunteers in our local fire brigade,” she said.
“As part of the Government's commitment to regional Australia, a structured approach to decentralisation is being developed, starting with a strategic assessment of which departments, agencies and their parts are suitable for decentralisation.
“The policy is to look at all departments and agencies across Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, although certain elements seem to have forgotten about Sydney and Melbourne and only report on potential moves from Canberra.”
Ms Nash said the NSW Department of Primary Industries in Orange and the Australian Tax Office in Albury are two excellent examples of decentralisation.
“I'm also a supporter of corporate decentralisation and the benefits for both the economic development of regions and the companies themselves, in terms of cheaper rent, rates and land, and I'm working with the business sector to progress this,” she said.
Ms Nash said every Australian owes their lifestyle to regional Australia.
“From the milk on their breakfast cereal, to the meat and vegies for dinner followed by the cream on dessert, as well as the gas that cooks that dinner, the water for showering and most of the materials that built their homes,” she said.
“Given all this, it is impossible to drive national economic development without investing in our regions.”

Ms Nash said the regional policy statement Regions 2030 is a plan to give regional cities and rural areas the investment which helps the national economy.
“It recognises that local communities often have better solutions than government, and that when communities and government work in partnership, long lasting and great outcomes can be achieved,” she said.
“Ultimately, it aims to build the kinds of sustainable regional communities our children and grandchildren either want to stay in or come back to.”
Ms Nash also said the Federal Budget had one of the biggest investments ever seen in regional Australia.
“We are funding the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail with an additional $8.4 billion,” she said.
“By 2025, this nationally significant freight transport project will better connect our regions to domestic and global markets to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities offered in Asia and beyond.”
Ms Nash said the Budget also contained an extra $200 million for the Building Better Regions Fund.
“Bringing the total amount in that fund to almost half a billion dollars so that more regional communities can grow and drive their own futures,” she said.
“The Building Better Regions Fund has seen huge demand for local regional projects, evidenced by the record number of applications made under the first round of the Building Better Regions Fund which closed earlier this year—more than 900 applications, with 545 for the infrastructure stream and 371 for the community investments stream.”
Ms Nash said Australia is facing new challenges, so the government must demonstrate new thinking.
“Developing regional Australia is critical to that new thinking,” she said.
“To not just pay lip service to, but to actually acknowledge through policies and through Budget measures, that Australia's regions drive our national economy, and are fundamental to the functioning of our cities and the nation.”

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